Is Deforestation in Colombia Caused by Oil Palm Expansion?

University essay from KTH/Hållbar utveckling, miljövetenskap och teknik

Author: Mona Date; [2020]

Keywords: ;

Abstract: The palm oil industry is growing globally and palm oil is today the most used vegetable oil for biofuels, however, over the last years research has showed that it has caused great deforestation in Southeast Asia where the grand majority of oil palm is produced. There has also been reports on poor working conditions showing that the palm oil is not socially sustainable either. Colombia is the biggest producer of palm oil in Latin America, with plans of continued expansion, and they are marketing their palm oil as sustainable and not contributing to deforestation. This report investigates the oil palm expansion in Colombia, with a focus on its links to deforestation. The research also looks into social issues connected to oil palm expansion, historically and currently. The purpose of the study was to first scope the global oil palm industry and its impacts on the world, with a focus on deforestation, and then concentrate on and investigate the Colombian palm oil since they are today the fourth biggest producer and marketing their product as non-deforesting. The investigation was conducted through a literature review and interviews with relevant stakeholders in the sector. The results from the literature review suggest that the biggest direct driver of deforestation in Colombia is expansion for cattle, and the indirect driver is appropriation of land. Oil palm expansion has caused deforestation but not very significantly. The result from the interviews indicates that recently there has been a change of pattern of the deforestation. Earlier there were farmer deforesting smaller areas while today there are big landholders and companies deforesting bigger areas, and deforestation for oil palm is taking place illegally in these areas. Historically the palm oil industry has also been connected to social issues, such as forced displacement of people and corruption, and this might still be an issue today. From the literature review and the interviews a conclusion could be drawn that, over the last years, oil palm expansion has not been a significant driver of deforestation. However, lately illegal deforestation for oil palm has been documented on the border to the Amazon, which shows that it is necessary with careful monitoring in areas that risk being deforested.

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